Making WordPress work for you
Date, time, and location: Sunday, 10-10:50 a.m., New Media Central 1
Description: Considered making the switch to WordPress? The former director of CoPress offers tips on how to make an open-source content management system work for your organization. Learn the pleasures and pitfalls of migrating from another CMS and why WordPress is a good solution for college newspapers.
Session outline and notes
Edit this document: http://db.ly/cma11move
Who I am and why I'm here
- Daniel Bachhuber
- digital media manager at CUNY J-School, previously CoPress and Publish2
- Helped move over 50 college media sites to WordPress when working on CoPress
- WordPress multisite at CUNY with 265+ sites, WordPress for my personal site
- danielbachhuber.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
- Informal discussion of using WordPress in a newsroom environment
- Why WordPress, and its advantages
- Review the process of moving to WordPress from another CMS
- Answer other questions you have. Feel free to ask during or after.
- Documentation and notes will be up on http://movetowordpress.info/ later today
Introductions around the room
- First name
- Whether or not you're running WordPress
- One problem you want to solve today
What is and why you should use WordPress
- is written with PHP
- uses MySQL
- is known for its easy 5 minute install
- is open source
- Open source - Free software gives you the freedom to use the software as you’d like. You can modify the software as you’d like, and distribute those improvements to others. This has really significant practical applications.
- User friendly - WordPress is incredibly easy to use. There’s extensive documentation on how to get started (books even), and your entire staff can have accounts for posting to the web.
- Full control over advertising - An advantage to hosting your own content management system is that you have complete control over the advertising run on your website. Don’t want any advertising? Don’t install advertising software. Want to target the communication department’s alumni campaign to a specific state? Use Google Ad Manager for free and pick the state.
- Regularly updated with new features - WordPress 3.1, released on February 23rd, includes contributions from more than 180 developers and adds features like a new streamlined writing interface, post formats like Tumblr if your theme supports it, and better functionality for linking to past archives.
- Personalization with themes - Themes are how the design of your website is controlled. There are hundreds of free themes in the WordPress.org directory, and there are also premium theme providers like Gabfire and WooThemes who offer support in addition to a good-looking theme.
- Strong community - Did you know WordPress powers over 10% of all websites? Millions of online publishers use WordPress which means lots of documentation, video examples and constant, new functionality in the form of plugins. WordPress is used by some of the most respected publishers out there, including: The New York Times, the BBC, The Wall Street Journal and Wired, as well as corporations like Sony, Ebay, Yahoo and even Ben and Jerry’s.
What WordPress offers:
- One-click install and upgrades
- Posts with titles, authors, categories, tags, custom fields, and embeddable media
- Pages with all of the same characteristics as posts
- All of the user accounts you may need
- Reliability and security
- Plugin architecture for extending functionality
- Theming framework with thousands of different templates to choose from
Important note: WordPress will push you to become a more capable online publisher
Who's using WordPress in college media
The Red and Black - http://www.redandblack.com/
Daily Sundial - http://sundial.csun.edu/
The Campanil - http://www.thecampanil.com/
Student Life at Washingon University in St. Louis - http://www.studlife.com/
Whitman Pioneer - http://whitmanpioneer.com/
Onward State - http://onwardstate.com/
NYU Local - http://nyulocal.com/
and many more...
Moving to WordPress
If you’re thinking about moving to WordPress, these are the steps you might follow:
- Assess CMS options
- Purchase web hosting
- Set up the WordPress website
- Find a theme to meet your needs
- Choose plugins to add functionality
- Secure a line of support you can rely on
- Migrate archives if you have them
- Train your staff
- Launching your website
Assess CMS options
Things you’ll likely want to consider
- Feature set
- Ease of use
- Reliability and support
Popular CMS options for college media
- College Publisher (Access Networks)
- Gryphon (Detroit Softworks)
- BLOX (Town News)
Question: Are there CMS options I’m missing?
Purchase web hosting
Once you’ve decided on WordPress, you should start looking at these things for hosting:
- Type of support you receive (email vs. phone vs. none) - This should match to your needs
- Performance - How many other websites will you share your server with? Are they high traffic, or do they have the potential to be?
- Storage - How much space do you get (usually measured in GB)? How does this compare to your current archives, and what do you think your growth rate will be?
- Bandwidth - How much traffic will you have? Are you delivering a lot of high-resolution images or audio?
Tip: “Managed WordPress hosting” means you’ll pay a little bit more to have the hosting company keep WordPress up to date and running fast. Standard web hosting will generally cost less, but you miss out on regular, guaranteed maintenance.
Different hosting providers we’d recommend you consider
- Page.ly - Fully managed WordPress, two-minute setup process, automated upgrades and nightly backup.
- School Newspapers Online - Growing a reputation for providing a thorough set-up service and excellent support
- Webfaction - Unmanaged WordPress hosting but one-click installs and excellent performance. Cheapest option listed.
- WPEngine - managed WordPress hosting for larger student newspaper websites concerned about performance and scalability
Set up the website
- WordPress is already installed for you
- You need to install WordPress with a couple clicks in the web host’s control panel
- You need to install WordPress following the famous five-minute install instructions
Find a theme to meet your needs
Important note: You can easily make most design, color, and font changes with CSS, so functional elements should be prioritized over design.
Aspects to think of when choosing a theme
- Navigation position in the header, and whether it supports WordPress’ custom menus
- Media slideshow on the homepage
- Color scheme, and whether there are alternate options available
- Homepage layout (reverse chronological blog vs. magazine vs. others)
- Author profile pages listing most recent articles with bios and pictures
- Any widgets packaged with the theme
- Different types of custom page templates
Premium themes to consider
- WooThemes - Membership fee. Large, diverse selection of WordPress themes. Gazette is a popular one amongst student newspapers.
- Graph Paper Press - Membership fee. Aesthetic themes with a strong focus on visual content.
- Press75 - Time-based membership fee. Variety of well-designed themes.
- Gabfire - Different Focus on magazine- and newspaper-style themes.
Choose plugins to add functionality
Here are several favorites specific to publishing:
- WordPress.com Custom CSS - Use your own CSS to tweak your website without modifying your theme’s files. Includes a revision history so you can always backtrack to prior versions.
- Co-Authors Plus - Assign multiple bylines to an article.
- W3 Total Cache - Speed up the load time of your website with caching. Caching takes a generated page of your website and stores it statically for future use.
- After the Deadline - Spelling, style, and grammar checker powered by artificial intelligence. Catches misused words, passive voice, and cliches.
- Embedly - Embed rich media from over 160 providers solely by copy and pasting the URL into the post box. Embedly fetches the embed code for you, and resizes it dynamically according to settings you specify.
- Post Author Box - Add an informational box about the author to the beginning or ending of every post (or page).
- Google Calendar Events - Parses Google Calendar feeds and displays the events as a calendar grid or list on a page, post or widget.
- JSON API - For the programatically-inclined, access all of your content through a JSON API. Useful for pulling content into your website with jQuery.
- Twitter Tools - Automatically publish your articles to Twitter, and pull in your most recent tweets into a widget area.
- Subscribe to Comments - Allow commenters to subscribe to email notifications on threads they’ve commented on. Increase enagement with your website with repeat visitors.
- Emphasis - Paragraph- and sentence-level linking and highlighting. Originally developed for nytimes.com, Michael Donohoe open-sourced the code and Ben Balter made it into a WordPress plugin. Every website should have emphasis.
Secure a line of support you can rely on
Types of things you might need support for:
- Upgrading WordPress
- Vetting new plugins
- Modifying your WordPress theme
- Training staff
- Server issues
- Oh my gosh the site is down issues
Your hosting provider may offer support via email, support ticketing or phone
Hire a tech-savvy webmaster as soon as you can
Options for freelance development
Migrate archives if you have them
CoPress open-sourced a Python conversion script you can use to move College Publisher and other archive files to WordPress eXtended RSS, a format WordPress can import/export.
Demo: Export and then import WordPress eXtended RSS file
Train your staff
Things your staff should know how to do:
- Log in
- Create a new post
- Add links
- Add tags
- Select a category
- Change the post author
- Change their byline
Launch your website
- Update all of your database records. Using a host file makes it easier to ensure everything is working properly on your new domain.
- Change your DNS to point to the new server. It’s ideal to do the launch over the weekend.
Question and Answers
http://www.movetowordpress.info (coming soon)
If WordPress does 85% of the website... Can I get WordPress to do what I need it to?
Yes, WordPress has a plugin architecture. This will allow for you to add additional functionality for many different functions. These plugins are written by users to save you time and “do things for you”.
Whats the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
WordPress.com is a “for-profit” hosting company. WordPress.org is the creator of the WordPress program.
Will WordPress become a “paid” program eventually?
No, this is an open source software and because of this it won’t occur. If someone tries to charge you for it - you can just move to a different hosting provider.
What exactly is PHP and MySQL?
PHP is the scripting language that the entire WordPress ‘program’ is built upon. This is what is controlling all of what you see in the browser. MySQL is the database that is storing the data for the WordPress content (text, images, author, date ect...). You as a user have full access to all of the PHP and MySQL - This means you can move from host to host anytime.
Can I run WordPress on my personal computer or do I need a server?
PHP is a server side script thus, you do need to run WordPress from a server. However, you can WAMP or XAMPP on your computer that will allow it to run the PHP and MySQL.
What happens to my Domain Name when you switch from College Publisher?
You have legal rights to the domain name. Ultimately you will want to move that domain to a different hosting provider. This process can take 7-10 days.
How do I install WordPress?
If you are signing up with a WordPress specialty host you will typically install the WordPress host during the sign-up. If you are signing up with a standard host they will typically support a “one-click” set-up. This will walk you through a few short steps and install WordPress to your desired location.
Does WordPress work on both Windows and Linux servers?
Yes, WordPress can run on almost any server.
If the school doesn’t have somone on staff for WordPress- what is the cost for this?
I would personally budget around $400-$500 for the training and set-up as long as you have your theme and plug-ins picked out.
You host 265 website - how do you do that?
WordPress supports Multi-Site functionality. This allows for one install of the WordPress to present the content of many many websites through different themes.
Why WordPress as CMS instead of Drupal?
It does 95% of what you need out of the box. It’s easy to make WordPress do what you want it. A more robust CMS will likely have a higher cost than what a small user group can afford and can fully utilize.